Vaginal Infections, UTIs, and STIs – Similarities, Differences, and Treatment
Vaginas are self-cleaning magical organs. Even as a whole sub-industry has grown around peddling ‘intimate washes’ and other such stuff to vagina-possessors, our understanding of keeping the organ clean and infection-free has remained fundamentally lacking. In some contrast to how vaginas function, avoiding problems in the uterine system, and sexually transmitted infections demands proactively clean habits and safe interactions with other people.
The region below the navel may seem like a complicated maze. But trust us, it is actually a powerful system of organs that support most of your highly-intimate bodily functions. It becomes our responsibility, then, to know more about what can affect it. So as to be able to support ourselves as well as our partners.
Here is a list of the terms, conditions, and facts you must begin with and then seek further information on:
Vaginal infections, UTIs, and STIs are different things
- Things may get confusing because all these conditions affect the same general area. But their causes and effects are specific to particular spots. Vaginal infections affect the inner organ called the vagina and its outer covering of folds called the vulva, which includes the vulvar opening and the clitoris. UTIs affect the urinary (or renal) system, which includes the kidneys, the urinary bladder, and the urethra. STIs transmit by sexual activity – vaginal, oral, and anal.
The symptoms may be similar
- A lot of these infections, even when originating from different spots, may show similar symptoms. Unusually coloured/textured discharges, pain during urination, itching, swelling, burning sensations, pain during sexual intercourse, unexplained bleeding/bloody urine are some . Which is why seeking professional treatment to understand the exact nature of the problem is important.
But STIs can also be asymptomatic
- If you are sexually active, then you must follow two rules of responsible partnership. Go for regular STI tests/screenings, and practice safe sex, especially with the use of condoms. When masturbating and even otherwise, check for any unusual sore points or growths. Most importantly, be absolutely open with your partner about your risks and fears.
There are also minor, passing, and delayed appearances
- Generally with all such infections, but especially when it comes to STIs, a few symptoms may show up and pass, they may appear minor at first, and many of them may take many days to develop and become prominent. These may also include atypical symptoms like fatigue, diarrhoea, nausea, and more. So, the best preparation against them is to use protection, keep clean, and get checked regularly.
It is all about balance!
Vaginas are warm, moist ensconces that are already home to healthy bacteria and yeast. It is when this balance is disturbed that infections arise. These can be a result of hormonal changes, prolonged exposure to dirty sanitary tools or underwear, wearing restrictive underwear, contact with multiple sexual partners, pregnancy, and more. The most commonly-reported vaginal infections include Yeast Infections, Bacterial Vaginosis, and Trichomoniasis. A few STIs can also lead to vaginal infections and the best ways to deal with all such are to approach a doctor and avoid sexual contact till you are well again.
It goes without saying that unclean toilets can cause a lot of problems! Contact with faeces can lead to severe UTIs, so from the toilet seat to wiping with a toilet paper from front to back, everything must be carefully considered when ensuring good uterine health. Lower point infections are generally easier to deal with but the infections that get closer to the kidneys require more serious attention. Drink a lot of water, watch out for the colour and smell of your urine, and keep your crotch covered using clean, dry and preferably cotton cloth.
Avoid shame and seek treatment
With infections that involve discussion of one’s sexual history or experiences with the private parts, all discussions seem difficult. But, prioritise your well-being and seek out a trusted professional for your checks.
Persons with vaginas regularly report their struggles with finding the right diagnosis and treatment. Concerns like Vulvodynia, which can cause pain in the vulva, can often dismiss as being nothing serious. Research and media attention on vaginal issues are uncommon as well. It is important for any person struggling with these issues to find trusted information through textbooks, other persons with vaginas, and any other possible community sources.
Like periods, good sexual and reproductive health information is a social concern. The effects of any problematic conditions may be personal, but they affect the larger community as we come in contact with other people and risk passing them on. Developing a closer relationship with your own body and being well-informed is a key commitment to make.